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There's probably no argument that the look of crappy old digital movies are better in the same way people are saying about film, but I wouldn't think someone is crazy for going for that effect either. Lots of charm and character.

Look into the work of Dogme 95, some of the early pioneers of digital filmmaking. Lars Von Trier's The Idiots was one of the first films to be shot entirely on digital. It doesn't look like film, and it's certainly not clean like digital today, but it has a distinct flavor of rawness that works really well for these films. Lars Von Trier now shoots on Alexa and other high-end systems, but I still see filmmakers using old-school digital and tape cameras to get this look. 

 

 

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Yeah I also wonder why people so often dismiss stuff they don't understand with "living in the past", or "amateur" or even "hipster".

I don't get why someone likes video, enjoy the movie "Lord of the Rings" or playing Soccer. 

But it's clear to me that many do, and that's all good. I don't think It's because they don't know better. It's just their thing. The look of film is my thing.

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I believe digital has evolved into its own animal. The current generation of mid to high-end cameras have a look that is very usable. Yes, early digital lacked dr, motion cadence, highlight fall off was terrible, but I think in their current state it's another matter. I think they can have a look unique to themselves. A very cinematic look, without needing to look like film.

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I believe digital has evolved into its own animal. The current generation of mid to high-end cameras have a look that is very usable. Yes, early digital lacked dr, motion cadence, highlight fall off was terrible, but I think in their current state it's another matter. I think they can have a look unique to themselves. A very cinematic look, without needing to look like film.

But all of the things you are describing are inherently organic to film. I don't think anyone is saying video is bad, it's just not yet as good as film. 

But one thing it does have, which I am grateful for... It's a helluva a lot cheaper and affords me the possibility to make movies... For that, and that alone... Video trumps film. 

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I have a suggestion for everyone... watch Blue-ray version of "High Plains Drifter" with Clint Eastwood and tell me what you think about the image and colors.
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0068699/
To me personally, one of the best movie images/looks I have ever seen until this day, just plain oldschool filmic image with fantastic colors.

http://thesupernaughts.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/highplainsdrifter.jpg

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But all of the things you are describing are inherently organic to film. I don't think anyone is saying video is bad, it's just not yet as good as film. 

But one thing it does have, which I am grateful for... It's a helluva a lot cheaper and affords me the possibility to make movies... For that, and that alone... Video trumps film. 

The problem is in the "not yet as good as film" part. The point is: that is not a fact, but an opinion. Perhaps shared by many, but clearly not everyone.

In any case, every time a discussion comes up about digital cameras and the film look, why do we go off on extraneous stuff like movement, and lighting? Obviously we're talking CETERIS PARIBUS. I'm really looking forward to Mattias' comparison since he'll be holding everything else constant.

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The foil is this - Aloha - that movie was shot on film - and it doesn't look that impressive.

 

Most film since the late 90's has gone into DI - digital intermediate - so you can't really say film is the best thing ever - it's the whole pipeline.  This is where film still wins - highlight handling - smoothness, motion of it, the response, the randomness of film grain.

But I have been fooled so many times - watched Kit Kitteridtch on Netflix - thought was alexa.  Watched Better Call Saul - thought it was film - it's red dragon.

You can't simplify it all to if its film stock.

some cameras are CCD, some are CMOS - each sees motions differently.

But really - the only way to see which one you like is like Oliver above - test all three formats - test yourself.  Test, test, test.  Try it out - rent a digital 8 camera and shoot some reels.  Mess with color.  Play with blur - see what you like and what you don't like.  And then you'll start to notice just because you get the producer and director on board to shoot film, it may not look that much better than if you used panavision primo lenses on a canon 5d.

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I really like filmic video, it's a different but similar compromise

I heard an interview recently with Vince Gilligan (WTF podcast) and it gets entertainingly tech wonky for a few minutes about 20 minutes in.  He basically explains his pipeline for Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul.  Bottom line, they did blind pre-pro tests with a bunch of digital and film cameras and they couldn't pick out which was which.

But, he said he still wanted to shoot on film.  And he had his own reasons for it.  If I'm gong to listen to anyone talk with authority about making cinema, it's going to be from a guy like that.

In the meantime, my analogy is that you're choosing a tool.  A paint brush.  You can use one made from the finest horse hair or one from nylon; still gotta know how to paint, right?

...And finally, there's a crazy wildcard in all of this.  Watching film PROJECTED is a whole 'nother experience.  Any of you actually remember what that's like?  Or gone to see an old movie house spool up a classic film for a screening?  If not, you should.  When the entire pipeline is non-digital, the details accumulate in a unique way that you can only get from analog.  

Sure, it's quaint, but it's also very charming; like listening to Duke Ellington on a lacquer 78. It may not be the highest quality, but maybe that's not always the point.

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The problem is in the "not yet as good as film" part. The point is: that is not a fact, but an opinion. Perhaps shared by many, but clearly not everyone.

In any case, every time a discussion comes up about digital cameras and the film look, why do we go off on extraneous stuff like movement, and lighting? Obviously we're talking CETERIS PARIBUS. I'm really looking forward to Mattias' comparison since he'll be holding everything else constant.

Good points

I heard an interview recently with Vince Gilligan (WTF podcast) and it gets entertainingly tech wonky for a few minutes about 20 minutes in.  He basically explains his pipeline for Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul.  Bottom line, they did blind pre-pro tests with a bunch of digital and film cameras and they couldn't pick out which was which.

But, he said he still wanted to shoot on film.  And he had his own reasons for it.  If I'm gong to listen to anyone talk with authority about making cinema, it's going to be from a guy like that.

In the meantime, my analogy is that you're choosing a tool.  A paint brush.  You can use one made from the finest horse hair or one from nylon; still gotta know how to paint, right?

...And finally, there's a crazy wildcard in all of this.  Watching film PROJECTED is a whole 'nother experience.  Any of you actually remember what that's like?  Or gone to see an old movie house spool up a classic film for a screening?  If not, you should.  When the entire pipeline is non-digital, the details accumulate in a unique way that you can only get from analog.  

Sure, it's quaint, but it's also very charming; like listening to Duke Ellington on a lacquer 78. It may not be the highest quality, but maybe that's not always the point.

I recently saw Rear Window in the theater and it was amazing to see. Everything from the title card to Hitchcock's master of shadow was a sight to see in the theater. 

I, honestly, like the aesthetic of video with a filmic look and appreciate the skill set involved in working with both mediums. I don't like to be put down for thinking film looks better or trying to obtain the most cinematic look, especially since the dawn of digital video, every camera innovation was made in a quest to achieve the filmic holy grail.

So, if the OP likes modern video, in essence, it is because the development of the technology has been reaching to emulate film as close as possible, since it's invention. 

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I heard an interview recently with Vince Gilligan (WTF podcast) and it gets entertainingly tech wonky for a few minutes about 20 minutes in.  He basically explains his pipeline for Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul.  Bottom line, they did blind pre-pro tests with a bunch of digital and film cameras and they couldn't pick out which was which.

But, he said he still wanted to shoot on film.  And he had his own reasons for it.  If I'm gong to listen to anyone talk with authority about making cinema, it's going to be from a guy like that.

In the meantime, my analogy is that you're choosing a tool.  A paint brush.  You can use one made from the finest horse hair or one from nylon; still gotta know how to paint, right?

...And finally, there's a crazy wildcard in all of this.  Watching film PROJECTED is a whole 'nother experience.  Any of you actually remember what that's like?  Or gone to see an old movie house spool up a classic film for a screening?  If not, you should.  When the entire pipeline is non-digital, the details accumulate in a unique way that you can only get from analog.  

Sure, it's quaint, but it's also very charming; like listening to Duke Ellington on a lacquer 78. It may not be the highest quality, but maybe that's not always the point.

I saw Taritino's latest - the slavery film on a 4k projector - looked bad - shot on film.  I saw Birdman on a 4k projection - shot on alexa plus - looked great

 

It's really not about film anymore -and Jurassic World was shot on film but San Andreas was shot on Alexa and San Andreas in the theatre, the trailer, looked better to me.  It's not as simple as film and digital projection.  It's lenses, it's DI, it's lighting, it's everything.  You really can't just say "Film is better, end of story" - there is more to the look of the film than what you shot it on.  Vince Gilligan is a very great show runner - I love breaking bad -but he's not a DP - he's a exec producer - it sounds great to say you shot on film - but in reality - I tell every production I rather spend that money to shoot film on getting a good editor or colorist and it will look better.  

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I love breaking bad -but he's not a DP - he's a exec producer - it sounds great to say you shot on film - but in reality - I tell every production I rather spend that money to shoot film on getting a good editor or colorist and it will look better.  

He pretty much says the same in the interview, actually.

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What is called for is really a change in perception. To say something looks like video does not mean the same thing today as it did 20 years ago. Years ago it was an insult, because most video looked pretty darn bad. Today it is simply a different feel... Cleaner, sharper and it can still be very cinematic. It think instead of saying something looks like video, what most people really mean, is it does not look cinematic.

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Video when not handled properly looks bad, even on a great camera. Film when not handled properly still at least looks like film. I think in some ways we are all talking about the same thing and btw, I am no one to talk because most of my stuff looks bad too. 

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Film doesn't look like real life. And that's the point imo. It looks good, dreamy, exciting, magical, "enter any random word".

And it's the same with everything in films. Even if they are shot digitally it doesn't look like real life. It doesn't sound like real life. People don't talk or act like real life. Physics don't apply. People don't die when they should. Etc etc etc.

All I know is that I sit in forums like this and peep at everything from Sony 4K to H.265.  I mainly shoot Raw but also avchd. I watch modern movies shot with the absolute latest in video technology. 

And then the other day when I rewatched the old "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" I was once again just blown away of how good real film looks. Even if it's over 50 years old and kinda Vintage.

The skin tones, highlights, shadows, everything just straight out kills any video footage I've seen.

If you are recording natural history, or real life, or interviews, it is supposed to look real, not surreal.

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If you are recording natural history, or real life, or interviews, it is supposed to look real, not surreal.

There is no such rule,  but I kinfa agree. I've worked along time as a reporter and in sports broadcast. Now producer.

And there are plenty of times when it's totally suitable for some film look. Like highlights, vignettes, montages, and other types of b-rolls. For history it can be very effective for reenactments. 

One of my favorite cooking shows use it for showing ingredients needed and some BTS b-rolls. Works perfectly. 

I don't see your point though in relation to my post that you quoted. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

The only thing that ever screams video to me is harshly clipped whitey/yellow/cyan/magenta highlights. Now we're mostly past that technical problem for the most part so it's all up to the artists to up their game in what's infront of the technicals!

Love the look of Revenant... everything is so wide - reminds me of Terrence Malick's stuff like Knight of Cups.

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 are you certain you're not confusing cinematography with the media used to capture it. I point out again, that Alexa 65 looks pretty darn good in the aforementioned trailer, but it sure doesn't look like film.

I disagree. Shoot this on IMAX film and it would look similar, especially once you downscaled to put it on YouTube (the grain would be very, very fine). Although, I'd probably go ahead and say the focus wouldn't be as perfect if shot on IMAX film these days (just look at Interstellar)!

IMO, something looking video vs film is partly to do with dynamic range - as film has amazing dynamic range and contains much more information in the highlights than shadows - as evidenced by the fact that it's general practice to over-expose film by up to a full stop. It's also about colours as unlike a bayer pattern sensor that cuts up your sensor into 1/3d blue, 1/3d green, 1/3d red, you're getting full resolution of each colour channel. In addition, the 'noise' (or grain) is not colourful, and much less distracting.

They're perhaps minor things, but it adds up to a 'noticeable' difference, even if you can't necessarily put your finger on what that difference is.

I also think a lot of the time people confuse lack of production value with looking video. If I pull out an Alexa, whack a cheap lens on it, set the exposure somewhere that looks okay, frame up some average looking shot on an average looking day and then only put a REC709 LUT on it and upload to YouTube or whatever, it might even look nice but I bet you wouldn't pick Alexa if I asked you what I shot it on. It would still look somewhat 'video-ey'.

If I light my scene, after testing the Alexa for what I think is acceptable usable DR, test ISO settings to get me the exact result I want - light creatively, get a professional Production Designer in to dress the set appropriately, get a costume designer in to design the costumes, beg the rental company for a good deal on nice lenses, and then send it off to be professionally sound designed and mixed, suddenly my film is looking a lot more like 'film' than 'video'.

I believe digital has evolved into its own animal. The current generation of mid to high-end cameras have a look that is very usable. Yes, early digital lacked dr, motion cadence, highlight fall off was terrible, but I think in their current state it's another matter. I think they can have a look unique to themselves. A very cinematic look, without needing to look like film.

But the motion cadences, highlight fall off, etc etc. was all developed to be that way because of the way that film handled such things, and how we were used to it. If film had never existed, digital would probably have never even attempted 24p - in fact, we'd probably be very used to watching things at 48fps with that motion cadence (like The Hobbit tried). If we never had film as a benchmark - if film never existed, would we have put time and effort into developing large sensor cameras? We may never have had experienced shallow depth of field in the same way, or had large dynamic range to view on screen. So is there a particular reason that we would ever have developed past 1/3 or 2/3" 3-chip arrays - especially as a 3-chip prism produces better colour than a single bayer pattern sensor (you have one chip for each colour, versus one sensor sliced up in a way that eventually makes 1/3rd of the sensor for each colour). We may never have seen wider dynamic range as pertinent, or important to video cameras.

Indeed, the whole idea of a 'cinematic' look is one that involves being captured on celluloid film. This idea we have of what 'cinematic' looks like is developed from what film looks like on screen. 

So by definition, having a cinematic look, in the way you describe it, is to look as much like film as possible - of course in addition to the production design, costume design, sound design, direction etc. etc.

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  • 3 weeks later...

sorry, old topic. But I was just remembering this surprisingly good B horror movie, Inside. at one point the killer is hidden beautifully in the darkness in the grain in one of the jump moments. Don't think it would have worked with a clean image. pretty sure some of it was on actual film, couldn't find much info - I would wager more grain was added. idk, just felt like it actually helped the film and especially the shot. not just in general style, but to tell the story right, which if you're a real cinematographer should probably be the first thing you look at.

Can anyone else think of moments like that? I think it's easy to argue black and white has helped certain films etc. Just thought it was interesting to think of this as an actual tool

peace

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